It's no secret that there are some serious patty cake games on Big XII schedules this season that in all honesty should have never been scheduled. However, there are also some pretty big time match-ups with the conference schools that are sure to draw a ton of national attention, exposure, and possible talking points about the strength of the conference. Here are the ten best non-conference games, featuring Big XII schools, of 2014.
10) September 13th | West Virginia at Maryland - This is a crucial year for WVU Head Coach Dana Holgorsen. The Mountaineers haven't been to a bowl game since 2012 and haven't won one since 2011. This rivalry game will be the final tune up before conference play begins and will most likely be the difference between heading into the Big XII season with a losing or winning record. The Terrapins won this game 37-0 last season and will host the Mountaineers with 17 returning starters from a squad that was 7-6 in 2013.
9) September 13th | Iowa State at Iowa - Paul Rhodes finds himself in the same situation as Holgorsen where he has to produce a winner in 2014 to keep the vultures away. This will be the first road test for the Cyclones in 2014 and its against an Iowa squad that was six points better last season. ISU has 15 returning starters to Iowa's 13 but fans in Ames are hoping that a strong end to last season will carry over into this fall.
8) September 6th | BYU at Texas - The Cougars flat ran over the Longhorns in 2013 but things have drastically changed in Austin since then. A new coach seems to have brought a new personality and attitude which will face its first test in this game. Quarterback Taysom Hill and running back Jamaal Williams are among the eight returning starters on offense for BYU.
7) September 13th | Minnesota at TCU - Sixteen returning starters have the Horned Frogs thinking of a run for the conference title and this game should give us a decent enough look at their true potential. The Golphers are losing 2013 passing leader Philip Nelson but return 1,200 yard rusher David Cobb along with seven other offensive starters from last year's 8-5 season.
6) September 13 | Arkansas at Texas Tech - After starting 2013 7-0 the Red Raiders ended the year on a five game losing skid. They seem to have corrected the problem with a 37-23 upset win over Arizona State in the Holiday Bowl. This will be the first meeting between these two schools since 1991 but this isn't the same Arkansas team that were conference mates with Texas Tech in the old Southwest. The Razorbacks are returning 13 starters from a 2013 squad that was absolutely atrocious and will be looking for some redemption in 2014.
5) September 13th | UCLA vs. Texas (in Arlington) - The Charlie Strong era in Austin will either get off with a bang or a bump. Their schedule isn't very kind but at least they're getting games in their home state. The Bruins are loaded for this fall with seventeen returning starters (9 on offense) from last year's 10-3 squad. Big Twelve fans will want to tune in to this one to get a glimpse at quarterback Brett Hundley who passed for over 3,000 yards last season and also netted 748 on the ground.
4) September 13th | Tennessee at Oklahoma - The Vols are in a bit of a rebuilding year but should roll into Norman with a 2-0 record. For the Sooners it'll be the first time they've played Tennessee in the regular season and the first meeting between the two schools since the 68 Orange Bowl. Oklahoma is banking on nine returning defensive starters making them one of the top units in college football this fall.
3) August 30th | West Virginia vs. Alabama (in Atlanta) - As if a 4-8 record last season weren't bad enough for the Mountaineers, they'll start their 2014 campaign against an Alabama team that is still steaming from losing the Sugar Bowl. Holgorsen has 13 returning starters from 2013 and will need to show immediate improvement on both sides of the ball to make this a contest. The chink in the armor may be that Bama is replacing seven starters on defense.
2) September 18th | Auburn at Kansas State - Bill Snyder must have had a lapse in judgment when this game was scheduled. The dark horses in the Big XII title race only have five returning starters on defense and will be facing one of the most potent offenses in the nation with Nick Marshall and the Tigers. Auburn is 3-0 against KSU.
1) August 30th | Oklahoma State vs. Florida State (in Arlington) - For all the grief that we gave the Pokes for the cupcakes on their schedule, we have to give them props for opening the season with the defending national champs. Unfortunately this could turn into a thrashing of mass proportions for them. The Cowboys have just four returning starters on each side of the ball and are up against the FSU machine that features a Heisman winner at quarterback and Karlos Williams who averaged 8 yards per carry in 2013. On the other hand, it could perfectly set up a miraculous season for OSU.